Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the very best American filmmakers working today, and quite possibly the most interesting. His mastery of the craft is nearly unparalleled, placing him on that elusive, immortal plane where the likes of the Coen brothers, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg currently reside. Yet what sets him apart, even among such esteemed company, is how perplexingly eclectic he is.
American Graffiti is arguably George Lucas’ masterpiece, not necessarily because it’s any more or less culturally significant or cinematically innovative than Star Wars, but simply because it’s Lucas’s most personal film. Here is a piece of his life, adapted into an ensemble piece that explores his own personal sense of nostalgia in a surprisingly bittersweet and grounded way.
Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai begins with the sea, roiling and foaming beneath the opening credits. Many films noir are laden with existential anxieties; indeed, fatalism and cynicism are as commonplace in the genre as stylized lighting, bantering innuendoes, and convoluted crimes.